Plenty of good stuff
  |  First Published: May 2004

THIS is looks like being one of those times where you have to stand behind a tree or a rock to bait a hook.

Unless we get a late flood, there are going to be an awful lot of fish caught this month. Wherever you look, from the inshore reefs to the beaches, headlands and estuaries, and whatever you fish for, everything is set up for a cracker of a season.

We’ve had just enough rain and offshore winds to trigger the spawning and/or feeding instincts of the mullet, bream, blackfish, jewfish, tailor, snapper and mackerel everyone likes catching around here during this most enticing seasonal cusp. This is looks like being one of those months when you’d better take up golf or knitting if you can’t catch a fish.

We can expect a little more rain early this month but unless it’s in the form of a deluge, it won’t be enough to put a spanner in the works. So what do you want to catch?


Offshore anglers are already savouring long periods of relative calm which allow them to fish the reefs for a wide variety of offerings. There have been some good hauls of snapper from the reefs around Evans Head, Ballina and Brunswick Heads and they’ll only improve. The trawlers are loading up on fat, succulent ocean school prawns as I write and when these prawns gain the relative safety of the reefs and they will fall prey to snapper, school jewfish, teraglin and the straggling northern reef fish.

Water temperatures have remained around 22° to 23°, apart from the odd cool upwelling, meaning mackerel have also played the occasional strong hand in catches. Look for bigger Spaniards to linger well into next month around prominent pinnacles and bommies and for the spotties to concentrate in denser schools in the warmer eddies.

The estuaries are primed for great action from the bream, blackfish, school jewfish and healthy numbers of flathead. The rivers ran chocolate for more than a month, forcing down great quantities of prawns and baitfish, although I heard the other day there are still bream doing their thing well upstream of Coraki.

The big freshes couldn’t have just run over the top of the salt water that has dominated these reaches for around two years, could they? I’ve had friends keep bream in their aquariums in gradually diminishing amounts of salt water until the tank was carrying entirely fresh water, so some of these river fish must have acclimatised very well. Regardless, I can’t imagine them staying that far upstream forever.

There are hordes of bream in the lower estuaries and they’re providing plenty of entertainment for anyone who wants to wet a bait or a lure, day or night. Multitudes of little tackers make daytime fishing a bit of a lottery but we can expect numbers of bigger fish to improve almost daily until mid-July.

The fishing focus has been on the final few kilometres of the Richmond and should remain so. Flathead have been working from the entrance to around Pimlico with some big spawning females lying with their attendant males around the deep sections along the rocky walls below Burns Point. These fish would have used the fresh and its accumulation of food and potential mates as a trigger to spawn, so it’s even more important to release the big females at this time. Flathead seem to spawn at variable times and I’ve caught big females heavy in roe from October to May.

Blackfish have also been willing biters, although there has been some difficulty in securing a good weed supply. While they have been biting on small yabbies in the discoloured water, scoring decent weed will become a problem as the luderick acclimatise to the lower river. Every time I drift past the Riverview Park rock pool, which used to hold healthy volumes of quite acceptable weed, I can’t help thinking how short-sighted Ballina Shire Council was to fill in structure.

There have been plenty of school jew chasing the prawn schools and bigger jewies hunting mullet around the seawalls. That shouldn’t change this month as the mullet run peaks and there will be plenty of people tossing big lures from the walls for some time yet, especially when the sea is rough and the mullet are sheltering in the lee of the walls.


From Lennox Head to the Brunswick there have been some great greenback tailor to 4kg and more for some time now, although action has been a bit docile south of Ballina. That should all change this month as the pilchard schools work along the beaches and it won’t just be tailor reaping the harvest.

There are almost always bream following big schools of feeding tailor to pick up the scraps of these messy eaters. Switching from ganged hooks and pillies to a single hook and pillie chunk or cut bait will do the trick.

And a few locals have also done well on jewfish by casting chrome tailor lures and retrieving them slowly enough to tempt the quality jewies also in attendance. I guess the smaller fish are dining on the pilchards and the bigger ones are shadowing the tailor. These guys are using metal lures because even the best weighted soft plastic isn’t aerodynamic enough to get the distance over the intervening sandbar. And with some of the fancier weighted softies $10 or more, an encounter with even a chopper tailor can get expensive.

The headlands are also coming into their own, with more of the same on offer. Experienced rock anglers will also score some great jew and 5kg-plus greenbacks fishing the night high tides a little after the new and full moons but it pays to know the platform you’re fishing and to be fully aware of the sea conditions before venturing onto the open rocks after dark. The rewards are there but so are the risks.

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